should be more 'old boys' network
May 10, 1999
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Esther Dyson, high-technology guru and gadfly, author, entrepreneur,
and publisher, assembled one of the most impressive groups of
technology personae for her annual PC Forum held in March in Scottsdale,
and the audience for this annual confab are a who's who of the
high- tech world.
who wants to know what's next in technology, marketing and business,
PC Forum is a must-attend venue. Now in its 22nd year, it's an
event at which kids from technology start-ups mingle with venture
capitalists, government leaders mix with high-tech entrepreneurs,
and authors and thought leaders gossip with geeks and propeller-heads.
is awesome because everyone chats and mingles like undergraduates
on campus on a sunny day at the beginning of a quarter. Folks
are relaxed, friendly and unabashedly curious about the future
of technology and business.
But no traditional,
mainstream CEOs were in sight this year, except Katherine Graham,
the 81-year-old chairman of the executive committee of the Washington
Post Co., and she was a featured dinner speaker.
One of the
wiser advertising agency types was there: Martin Sorrell, CEO
of WPP Group, owner of Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson,
Hill & Knowlton and Ogilivy One, spoke on a panel and sat
a few rows ahead of me. Maybe because Sorrell came up through
the ranks via a nontraditional route (he was on the financial
side of the agency), he sees the light.
Laybourne, Nickelodeon's creator, led a discussion on branding,
the importance of women to marketers and the ins and outs of her
start-up, Oxygen Media - a venture led by Laybourne, Oprah Winfrey
and Marcy Carsey. Here was one of the most powerful and innovative
women in television, describing how she's going to build out her
business on the Net - and no one from the traditional CEO club
was there to hear what she had to say.
was there. He's the general partner of the hottest high-tech venture
capital firm, Kleiner, Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). The
firm has backed many of the best-known Internet players, from
@Home and Excite to Netscape, AOL and Amazon.com - more than 175
companies so far.
breakthrough for KPCB: It networks its ventures into a high-tech
keiretsu, a mutually supportive system of individual businesses.
One of the top money guys from Silicon Valley should pack in the
traditional CEOs. Not a chance. I guess they'll figure it out
when they buy aspirin over the Internet from Doerr's newest venture,
Drugstore.com, instead of Wal-Mart.
assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice
and the man responsible for prosecuting Microsoft, described the
Justice Department's approach to limiting monopoly power without
jeopardizing innovation. He was followed by Bill Kennard, chairman
of the Federal Communications Commission, who shared his views
on government regulation at the dawn of the era of broadband communication,
and the man who could-but says he won't-regulate the Internet.
the bright sunshine at the Scottsdale Princess hotel next to Mitch
Kapor, founder of Lotus software, I listened to Assistant Treasury
Secretary Lawrence Summers talk about the global economy, Internet
access and the arguments for and against taxation on the Internet.
David Nagle, chief technology officer of AT&T, and Charles
Brewer, CEO of Mindspring, a hot ISP, debated the merits of opening
high-tech access in the critical last mile to the home. A series
of seven "debutantes," promising high-tech start-ups,
were introduced at the gathering. Avid entrepreneurs seek out
Dyson and her conference as a place to demonstrate their capabilities
to the venture capitalists and, more importantly, to their peers.
Strutting their stuff at this year's PC Forum were BlueMartini.com,
a group that provides packaged software to start a scalable e-commerce
company; response.com, a group that provides tools that facilitate
audience segmentation and automated, but customized, Web communication
with online customers; and Springfield Group, a venture that hopes
to make it easier for existing small businesses to become Web
talk about networked devices. Bill Joy, vice president of research
and founder of Sun Microsystems, promised that someday our home
appliances will use their electrical power connection as a communications
mechanism so they can phone home and alert us when parts are wearing
Postrel expounded on the future, claiming a looming jihad between
customers who value "stasis" and those who want "dynamism."
I was surprised
to see the high-tech world's first industry watcher, Gideon Gartner
-founder of the Gartner Group and more recently Chairman of Giga
Information Group-in the audience furiously scribbling notes.
Other speakers included Barry Diller, chairman and CEO of USA
Networks, Jay Walker, vice chairman of Priceline.com, Mark Cuban,
CEO of Broadcast.com, Peter Neupert, CEO of Drugstore.com and
Jerry Yang, chief Yahoo!
was, where were the leaders from the "old economy?"
You'd think by now the heads of the slow-growth industries who
desperately need top-line revenues would get the word. CEOs tell
me they've cut costs to the bone, shrunk their payrolls to a minimum
and need new ideas for totally new businesses.
Here for the
22nd year in a row was one of the greatest collections of insight
and innovation the so-called New Economy has to offer, and not
a traditional CEO was within shouting range.
Hey, you marketing
executives out there: Tell them to get with it! Wake up your CEO
and tell him (or her) to smell the Starbucks, before you become
Folgers or Maxwell House. At your next management meeting, suggest
the boss sign up for next year's conference. The business you
save just might be your own.
is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.